PH gov’t says new COVID strain still undetected after HK finds variant in Manila passenger

Health Secretary Francisco Duque in a hospital visit. <i>Photo: Department of Health </i>
Health Secretary Francisco Duque in a hospital visit. Photo: Department of Health

The new COVID-19 variant remains undetected in the Philippines, the Department of Health said today, despite Hong Kong authorities’ announcement that it had found a passenger from Manila who tested positive for the more infectious strain.

A statement said that B.1.1.7, first discovered in the United Kingdom in September, has not been detected by the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) in any of the 305 samples that were submitted by nine institutions.

“The 305 samples analyzed by the PGC were composed of positive samples from November-December hospital admissions and from inbound travelers who tested positive upon arrival at the airport,” the Health Department said.

It added that the Philippine health authorities are coordinating with Hong Kong officials “to secure official notification and other pertinent information regarding the Hong Kong resident who tested positive for the variant following travel history from the Philippines.”

Hong Kong reported yesterday that it detected B.1.1.7 in a passenger who arrived from Manila on Philippine Airlines’ flight PR300 on December 22. Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said they are in the process of getting the travel manifest for the said flight.

The Philippines has banned foreign travelers from 20 countries, including the United Kingdom, to prevent the spread of the new variant, which could possibly be up to 70% more transmissible. The Duterte government’s flight ban is scheduled to expire on Jan. 15.



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